It was by pure accident that Bonnie Raitt, the coolest woman in blues, came into my life, forever shifting its course. For this, I could not be more grateful. She’s made a lasting impression on me, teaching me a little about the blues, a little about life, and a lot about finding and keeping what makes you happy.
When I had come across my first Bonnie Raitt album, I was struggling with the notion that I had strayed too far from what I wanted in life. The career I was studying for was not as much of a passion as it was a safety net. Any energy I had once used to create was taken up working towards things I didn’t believe in. As I was lying there, listening to the album, the song “Angel from Montgomery” poured through the speakers and I felt as though she was putting my life to music. The words resonated so deeply and sparked an epiphany in me as I rose to turn it up. “How could a person / go to work in the morning / and come home in the evening / and have nothing to say?” I was in awe of the honest and raw way she posed the question and was terrified of the thought of asking myself it in the future.
After that morning, a lot of changes were made in my life. I took some time off of school to regroup and re-examine what it is I needed to be happy. In the meantime, I was listening to Bonnie on repeat, becoming more and more exposed to the blues. Her albums were sort-of a soundtrack to that in-between period of what to do next. She includes a lot of covers on her albums, which introduced me to all the blues legends like Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker. She is also the only woman to have had her own signature line of Fender guitars in which all proceeds went to music programs for young girls. A well-respected slide guitarist in an otherwise male-dominated music scene, I was inspired to learn how to play like her. And that’s what I did next. I took up the guitar to pass the time and fell in love with it. The ability to sit down and focus on something with no intention other than to create was so simple, yet so freeing. It led me back to an old love of mine – writing.
Bonnie Raitt has gone through her own struggles and has been open about her in-between periods. She had taken a hiatus from music to overcome an alcohol addiction in the late 1980’s when the “late night life” began to work against her. She came back in 1989 on top of the charts with her album Nick of Time. She also took a few years off to deal with the passing of both her parents and her brother, all of which occurred in a ten year period. She used that time to fall apart, somehow always coming back together again. Her ability to be open about the importance of leaving time for yourself to do what you need to get back to what you love encouraged me to find a better version of myself.
The next semester I finished a two-year degree and enrolled in a four-year college, majoring in journalism with a concentration on music. Along with a few other inspiring women in my corner, I give Bonnie credit for teaching me a lesson in falling apart and falling into something better. Somehow the lady with the silver streak in her hair and bottleneck slide on her finger helped me find what I was looking for; and for that, she will always be a hero of mine.